Tag Archives: Jim Brady

Los Links: More on Journal Register’s Bankruptcy

7 Sep

For your reading pleasure, more stories in the wake of Journal Register Company’s bankruptcy announcement.

In Denver Post & MediaNews Group: Fallout from partner Journal Register Company bankruptcy? Westword’s Michael Roberts reports that, according to “an insider,” there was some dissension in the ranks once the bloom was off the Digital First rose:

By summertime, however, our source reported grumbling over what was perceived as top-heaviness at Digital First Media, with new senior executive hires during a time of layoffs at MediaNews Group papers around the country. The fear: MediaNews Group was being used as a cash cow to build up DFM. Our source also noted tension between MediaNews Group types and folks imported by Paton, many of them with Journal Register Company roots.

GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram writes in Newspaper restructuring — think steel, cars and airlines, the newspaper industry’s transformation will need to be measured in decades:

If there is a poster child for the “digital first” newspaper movement, it is probably Journal Register Co., which manages a chain of dailies and weeklies in the eastern U.S. John Paton took the helm as CEO after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, and implemented a wide range of digital-first moves — and yet parent company Digital First Media just announced that Journal Register Co. is filing for bankruptcy for a second time. The not-so-hidden message in all this is that despite all the pain of the last few years, the restructuring of newspapers isn’t even close to being over: as we’ve seen with the large structural changes in the steel industry, car makers and the airline market, transforming an industry with massive legacy costs is a long and bloody process. What emerges at the end remains to be seen.

In Journal Register, future-of-news star, is bankrupt again, Ryan Chittum writes for the Columbia Journalism Review that the numbers John Paton mentioned in his announcement are meaningless without some context:

The reason we don’t know more about the numbers is that JRC, as a closely held company, releases financial information only selectively—in sharp contrast to its “open journalism” philosophy.

>snip<

Paton, for instance, has repeatedly said digital revenues at JRC were up some large percentage since he took over. He does so again in his bankruptcy note. Yes, but from what to what? Those are big numbers all right, but 235 percent of not much is still not that much, and its worth noting that JRC’s digital revenues were far below industry average when Paton took over. It’s much easier to grow fast off a low base, and Paton has used the company’s privately held status to cherry pick positive numbers without having to paint a full picture—one that definitely didn’t include an imminent bankruptcy.

A former Journal Register employee wrote a letter about the bankruptcy announcement that is posted on Romenesko:

From RACHEL JACKSON, former Journal Register employee: The [Journal Register] Chapter 11/sale announcement does not surprise me in the least – and the employee you quoted as calling this “horseshit” is exactly right.

Lastly, in the wake of the bankruptcy announcement there has been some grumbling (perhaps it’s contagious) about the fact that Project Thunderdome is located in Manhattan rather than, say, Willoughby, Ohio, where real estate costs are presumably less. Jim Brady explains the reasoning in a piece by Adrienne LaFrance for Nieman Journalism Lab, Why does Project Thunderdome have to be in New York City?

“You want to be in a position to get the best possible people you can,” Brady said. “I’d love to get in an argument with anybody who says there isn’t a lot of journalistic talent in New York City.”

Carry on.

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Denver Post, Contra Costa Times Revamp Story Editing With Fewer Copy Editors

23 May

From Poynter.org, May 23, 2012:

In some ways, the Denver Post and Contra Costa Times’ cutbacks in copyediting, announced last month and now final, is a common story these days. Less common are the other changes they’re making in how they handle print stories.

The Denver Post is eliminating its copy desk and moving away from an assembly-line editing process. Instead, reporters and editors on each desk will take stories from reporting to publishing, online and in print.

>MORE

Project Thunderdome: Coming To A Theater Near You

23 Mar

A LONE NEWS-GATHERING ORGANIZATION SEARCHING FOR A NEW BUSINESS MODEL ... A TRIBE OF LOST PUBLISHERS WAITING FOR A HERO ... IN AN INDUSTRY BATTLING TO SURVIVE, THEY FACE ADVERTISERS DETERMINED TO STRAY.
HOLD OUT FOR JOHN PATON. THIS IS HIS GREATEST ADVENTURE.

 
AS PROJECT THUNDERDOME moves closer to becoming a reality, let’s take a look at it. Always a good place to start:

WHAT IS IT?

In a nutshell, it’s centralizing production of non-local content. In a post titled News Media’s New Role As Both Medium And Messenger In A World Of Partnerships on his blog in December, Digital First CEO John Paton wrote:

By centralizing all non-local content creation and production we are able to reduce costs while putting more resources back into local coverage increasing what is already an important competitive advantage.

Digital First Editor in Chief Jim Brady, who is heading up the project, put it this way to Street Fight in October:

We can’t have people at 18 different papers finding, editing and paginating a story about the war in Afghanistan, or a movie review or a Wimbledon roundup. We have to find a way to provide that information centrally to our papers so that they can focus on local issues and coverage.

That centrally produced content is for both print and online. As Brady told the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers:

… We’re creating a centralized team to produce that content for all of the local papers and their websites; that will free up a lot of the resources in the building to go back out on the streets and report, as opposed to doing production work.

WHEN WILL IT START OPERATING?

Now, for parts of it. As Brady said in a Q&A with Street Fight on March 13:

What is the status of Thunderdome?

We’re starting to roll out some verticals like transportation. We’re going to launch a health section in the next couple of days. We’re going to roll out one a month for the next six months or so. We’re starting to hire staff who are helping get it up and running, but it’s not in its full form yet.

How far along are you in the transformation? Can you give a percentage?

Thunderdome is going to be a huge part of what we do in the next few months even if it’s not fully rolled out. A lot of the products that we’re going to build out of Thunderdome are already in play and in the process of being built. We’re bringing in a new content management system that’s already in half the JRC papers and it will be in the MediaNews papers before long. What we have is a significant amount of large, game-changing projects in the pipeline right now. In terms of percentage, I don’t know, I think we still have 75% of the way to go before all of those things are out the door, but we’ve made a lot of progress in the last six months and in the last three especially.

And Project Thunderdome apparently is located in New York City.

HOW WILL IT AFFECT JOBS?

According to Paton, not much, as those people formerly in production roles would be reassigned to local work. That’s just counting bodies — it sounds like job duties could change for some people. As he told the American Journalism Review:

We have hundreds and hundreds of people in production. If you were producing 18 dailies centrally, you’d be doing it with less people and could then repurpose them back into the community and create more local content.

HASN’T THIS BEEN DONE BEFORE?

Yes. As Jon Cooper, a vice president with Digital First, told Nieman Journalism Lab:

Folks have done production hubs; folks have done content bureaus or content sharing, but what we’re really looking to do is to empower local journalism. And part of that is to remove the roadblocks to small operations.

How The Denver Post fits into the puzzle isn’t wholly clear. I’m sure details will be forthcoming.

And of course, some are less optimistic, such as this comment on Street Fight:

Thunderdome sounds like an attempt to make generic content to reward their masters at Alden Global Capital. Lay off as many people as you can, create canned content and then, well, we never got around to local coverage because its, well, been a tough economy. That’s been the Media News playbook for years. John Paton just wants to do it without all that expensive newspaper (and people).

In the meantime, sit back, relax and cue up a little Tina Turner.

I Tweet Therefore I Am, But Am I Getting Paid For It?

24 Jan

DENVER POST REPORTER Michael Booth wrote a comment on a recent post asking about the need and/or expectations for staffers to use social media for work when they’re off the clock. It’s an important issue, and I would like to use his comment as a jumping-off point for a discussion:

As employees both desire and feel pressure to expand their digital work and presence, through Facebook, Twitter, DPO, etc., we are fast becoming not just a 24-hour operation, but 24-hour employees. Am I working overtime when I Tweet my stories from home to make sure they get seen? Do supervisors expect us to be at our desk filing breaking news 9 hours a day, and then available to do the same for 12 more hours at home?

And as we expand sources of revenue, what are the rights and responsibilities associated with things like e-books and other projets? Will employees share in the new revenue? Are they expected to work on those projects on their own time, or on company time? Do employees have the right to use material generated during work hours to seek personal opportunities in e-books or other formats, if the company is not interested in producing those themselves?

This is something the Guild is planning to address during bargaining.

In the meantime, let’s get a discussion going. Do you “work Tweet” when you’re off the clock? Do you feel pressure to do so? Or is social media so integrated into your life that there’s no real distinction between your work and personal use of Twitter and Facebook, and that’s fine by you?

Sound off below by leaving a comment.

Here’s a quick collection on the topic, none of which truly address the work-life social media time continuum, but that are interesting nonetheless: